Alexa Chung: 'I want my cold sore to be discussed, and sneered at, on my own terms'

Girl About Town

Wednesday 04 March 2009 01:00 GMT

I have never hated anything as much as the cold sore I am currently sporting. What's worse is I think it's starting to spread to the other side of my mouth just to spite me. What misery. The last time I had one I was 17, when my then boyfriend and I had to perfect the side-of-mouth-only kiss. It was far from ideal, given at that age I was possibly even more awkward and perpetually embarrassed than I am now. This time around, though, I'm less worried about kissing and more concerned with the implications this outburst of herpes simplex b is having on my diary.

London Fashion Week was a write-off. I was supposed to be covering the shows for a magazine, but judging by the creations sent waltzing down the catwalk, having a scab the size of a coin occupying one's face isn't going to be "in" next season. And I managed to miss House of Holland, Luella and Charles Anastase altogether. Totally gutting. Then there were the photographers. Those that I did manage to attend to were kind: they offered to airbrush out the offending cold sore in exchange for a photo. Some of them I deemed trustworthy enough to let down my scarf-shaped guard; others had to make do with just a partial view as I went about disguising my mouth with a merry-go-round of champagne glasses, overly large cocktail rings, or, when all else failed, the back of my hand.

And then, there he was. Kanye West, in all his blazer-wearing glory, emerged from behind a sea of Yves Saint Laurent heels and wet-look leggings. He called to me like a siren on the rocks/celebrity in the front row of a fashion show. In the absence of any show coverage, I reasoned, my piece in the magazine could benefit from a few snapshots of one of rap's demigods. So I went over and took a photo. I liked that he was in London. I liked that he had shaved the sides of his hair but not the top. I liked that, when reminded of it, he pretended to remember our last encounter, at a festival somewhere, when I had to interview him. In response, he swooped in for a fumbled embrace, to which I found myself barking the regrettable words: "NO, KANYE! I'm diseased!" Oh, God.

This is the problem with cold sores. I find it necessary to inform everybody, right away, that I have one – as if they hadn't already noticed it. I want to be the one to broach the subject first. I want it to be discussed, and sneered at, on my own terms. I now feel sorry that I ever "eeuurrgghed" my way through photos of Katie Holmes' scab-infested mouth. Oh poor girl, I thought, she must be so run down, ha ha ha. So this is my punishment. But what a cruel one it is. I'm so vain that my cold sore has prevented me from being seen out in public, and I tried not to care – but in the end, the pitiful looks got too much for me.

However, even when the scab was at its weeping nastiest, one thing alone could still drag me from my lair: the NME Awards. But halfway through the night, I realised that I would forever be trying to gain entry into this particular ceremony. The first time I went I was 20, and was only admitted into the after party, where I felt incredibly rock'n'roll for weeing in the men's loos. This year I won Best Dressed, but because it's not a particularly relevant award they don't honour it on the night. That's a shame – I really wanted to make an acceptance speech about how much of an effort it is to look like you really don't care.

Oh, and before I run out of room: Anvil! is one of the best films (featuring middle-aged men pursuing a lifelong dream) that I have ever seen (this year). It's about a Canadian metal band who, apart from a brief flirt with fame in the early Eighties, have never made it big. You have to go and see it, it's like the real Spinal Tap. In fact, the café I'm in right now has some pretty whack heavy metal music playing. But I'm even more irked by the fact that I only came in here to use their internet and have just been told it's not working. Now I feel silly for sitting here with a laptop because I never wanted to be one of those people who smugly tap away in corners. Tap tap tap.

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